How N.H.'s Homeschoolers Became Virtually Untraceable

Aug 26, 2015

Credit Photo Credit woodleywonderworks via Flickr Creative Commons

Homeschooling continues to gain in popularity across the country, and by most accounts, here in the Granite State, as well.

From 2002 to 2012, the number of homeschooled children in the state jumped by nearly 30 percent.

But tracking how many children are being homeschooled in New Hampshire now is easier said than done.

That’s because parents are no longer required to file annual notifications of intent to homeschool.

New Hampshire is one of just six states that only require a one-time notification when homeschooling begins.

Amy Gall is a homeschool parent from Bath. She also chairs the state’s Home Education Advisory Council.

She joined NHPR's Morning Edition.

Can you explain what’s required of parents now in terms of notification?

Before 2011, it was required that a parent file a notice of intent to home educate for each pupil over the age of 6 and under 18 by Sept. 30 for each school year. In 2011, the law changed to allow for a one-time notification policy, so parents now only notify one time per child. There’s a termination procedure if their home education program ends, whether it’s a transfer out of the district or putting the child into another school option or graduating a student who is under the age of 18.

What did that change mean in terms of tracking children who are being homeschooled?

It’s a little bit more difficult now for school districts and nonpublic schools to keep track of who is actually homeschooling because there is a perception that people might not file their termination paperwork when they end their home education program. Superintendents in particular feel like they need to know who’s in their district, who’s not truant, who’s homeschooling, who’s in a nonpublic school, etc.

And of course these numbers have implications on budgets, depending on school systems and towns.

They really do. We did hear that at the Home Education Advisory Council this year. Sometimes parents will choose to enroll their student in part-time classes at the local schools and if the school isn’t really aware that those students are there, that could be a big surprise come budgeting time.

After the law change, parents also no longer have to file annual end-of-year evaluations of their students’ progress. Why get rid of that?

Actually, parents still have to perform an annual evaluation and keep that on file, but that’s for their own benefit. There’s a bit of a difference in philosophy and a paradigm shift when you think about evaluation and who should have a copy of that. The idea is that homeschool parents have the best interests of their children at heart.

Short of neglect or abuse, there shouldn't be a reason for the state to be involved in the real nitty gritty and how it is that we choose to raise them.

Does the law require that homeschool parents at this point need to prove to the state that they are teaching the minimum criteria to their children?

No, there is no requirement for homeschooling parents to prove that they’re educating. Short of neglect or abuse, there shouldn’t be a reason for the state to be involved in the real nitty gritty and how it is that we choose to raise them.

There is, however, an implied idea that the state has an interest in all children having a basic education.

That’s true. There is a fine line between the state’s compelling interest to have an educated citizenry and the parents’ right to choose the upbringing of their children.

By most accounts, though, more parents do seem to be making the choice to homeschool. Why do you think that is?

A lot of the phone calls that I receive as the coordinator for the New Hampshire Homeschooling Coalition reveal that people are pulling their kids out of the public school because the public school is not meeting their needs in some way. And it’s not always that they’re looking to home school. They may not be interested in homeschooling, but they’re trying to find some other option.

Many of them are in a crisis situation, whether it’s with bullying or social and academic pressures that lead to severe anxiety in their children. Parents who are really frustrated with the special education process in the public schools and have just thrown up their hands. Those are the main types of reasons why parents are choosing to remove their kids from public schools in a search for another educational option.